Firing From Worldcon Staff
While I was at Imaginarium this weekend, I caught bits and pieces of information about David Weingart being fired from Worldcon.
I debated whether or not to shine more light and attention on this. In part, I was concerned because Dave’s posts included a screen shot and information that was used by some to track down the victim, which led to threats and harassment against said victim. It sounds like this was at least in part from followers of Theodore Beale. I don’t believe this was what Dave intended, but it happened. Dave has since pulled that screenshot and his posts.
As it’s been discussed and debated publicly, I decided to try to pull together what information I could.
- My Side of the Story: A livejournal post (now private) from David Weingart, dated 10/5. Dave talks about being fired from music programming at Worldcon.
- Another individual on staff was uncomfortable with Dave for reasons unknown and had, a year or two back, asked him not to interact with her.
- Dave and Worldcon worked out an arrangement where he would volunteer, but would respect certain boundaries and avoid contacting or interacting with her.
- Dave posted a lighthearted comment on a Worldcon staff chat board.
- He realized he’d responded right after a comment from the aforementioned individual.
- Worldcon contacted him about this violation of their arrangement, and suggested new boundaries that would among other things restrict Dave from all-staff chats.
- Dave refused these new restrictions, and was then fired.
- A Followup Request: Weingart wrote another post (now private) on 10/7, saying, “There’s one thing that I don’t like about some of what I’m hearing though. People are rushing to judge or speculate on [name redacted]’s mental health. Please don’t … Please, please, PLEASE do not speculate on her mental state and descend to name-calling (and if you must, please do not do it on my account). Please don’t be unkind to someone who is (as far as I can tell) hurting.”
- Worldcon 75’s Public Statement: On 10/8, Worldcon posted a relatively brief statement (now deleted). “David Weingart was recently dismissed from Worldcon 75 Staff for failing to abide by an agreement he had made to not interact with another staff member who reported feeling stalked by him in the past. The agreement had allowed both valued staff members to work on Worldcon 75 for several months. Once broken, David refused to recommit to a course of action intended to prevent problematic interactions from happening again, and refused to accept responsibility for his actions or impact.” They also offered an apology to the other staffer, who was now being harassed and threatened as a result of the public discussion.
- Worldcon Apologizes: On 10/11, Worldcon posted an apology to both Weingart and the victim. “Worldcon 75 would like to apologise for the grave mishandling of a personnel issue over the past few weeks, in particular regarding communication, the delays in our responses, and for our role in escalating the situation. Specifically, we would like to apologise to both our current and former staffers, who are now experiencing harassment from various parties. We would also like to apologise to our staff and to the Worldcon community at large for the lack of transparency in how this issue was handled and for our missteps in communication about it.” They also spelled out steps they would be taken to improve things moving forward, and solicited input and feedback at email@example.com.
- Other Details: There was other discussion online, including claims and counterclaims about things like whether or not this was the first time Weingart had posted on that board, how many times he responded to the other individual’s comment, and more. Short version — I simply don’t know all the facts.
As this was playing out, there was a lot of anger on all sides. Some were furious that Weingart — a good person and hard worker — was being punished. There was talk about harassment policies being misused or abused as a tool to carry out personal vendettas.
At the same time, we had the anger and frustration that any time a convention actually enforces their harassment policy, they’re immediately subjected to public scrutiny and forced to defend and justify every minuscule piece of evidence that went into their decision. Something we generally don’t ask or expect when cons enforce other aspects of their policies.
I don’t know all that happened. But, as usual, I do have some thoughts…
The Beale Effect: I’m bemused at how effectively Theodore Beale managed to unite Worldcon and Weingart, both of whom came together as if to say, “Oh hell no. F**k that guy.” As soon as Beale jumped in, Weingart pulled his posts, Worldcon called Weingart to apologize, then posted their public apology. It pretty much ended the public dispute right there.
Tuesday-Afternoon Quarterbacking: I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. But as I understand it, Weingart notified the staff from the beginning that the other individual had set boundaries about not wanting to interact or work with him. Bringing Weingart on but restricting his interactions seems like a solution destined to cause problems. If this other individual was already working for the con, my hindsight solution would be to simply not bring Weingart on staff. Yeah, it might mean losing a good volunteer in Weingart, but it would have more effectively respected the other individual’s boundaries, and would have avoided the mess that eventually followed.
Yeah, But… Doesn’t that mean all it takes is for someone to say, “I’m uncomfortable with Person X,” and then Person X doesn’t get to volunteer or work for a convention? And isn’t that why people are so worried about…
Weaponized Harassment Policies: To me, this falls into the same category as false rape accusations. Is it possible for someone to make false accusations of harassment, or to use such policies to try to punish someone they don’t like? Anything’s possible, yes. Is there any evidence whatsoever to suggest it happens more than once in a blue moon? Not that I’m aware of. But, like false rape accusations, the idea that people are using harassment policies as weapons of personal vendetta comes up with ridiculous, even obscene frequency.
A well-written harassment policy doesn’t give any one individual that kind of vindictive power. The decisions made regarding Weingart involved not only the victim, but multiple senior staff at Worldcon. Those staff have admitted to mishandling the situation, yes. But that’s a far cry from some sort of scheme or conspiracy to “get” Weingart. (Also, that mishandling doesn’t necessarily mean their final decision to fire Weingart was wrong.)
Boundaries: I’m a strong believer in boundaries. In stating, respecting, and enforcing them. It can suck to be on the receiving end, to have someone tell you they want no more contact or interaction with you. Especially if they don’t give you a reason, or you don’t understand their reason. But once that boundary is stated, you’ve got to respect it. Even if you think it’s unfair. Even if you just want to understand. Even if you just want to apologize. Every reason to violate someone’s boundary is about you, not them. Your confusion. Your hurt. Your need to apologize.
I think this is where some of the conflict comes from in these situations (and this isn’t specifically about Weingart and Worldcon). If you feel like you have a really good reason to cross that boundary, and you’re not doing it with any harmful intention, why should you face consequences? Because it’s not about you. It’s not about your intentions. It’s about the person who set that boundary, and your choice to violate it.
ETA: To clarify, Worldcon did not have their harassment policy finalized or in place during all this. (The convention isn’t until August of 2017.) While much of the discussion and debate got into harassment policies, this particular incident was about a specific arrangement between Worldcon, Weingart, and the other volunteer.
October 11, 2016 @ 10:03 pm
Without even knowing or reading into this – it’s easy to make a clusterf*ck on purpose to perpetuate the agenda of whoever is at fault (a harasser, or a counter-harassing accuser, or even third-party exploiters).
A partial solution to all that is to ask people to be f*cking adults and to separate feelings from physical acts.
“Another individual on staff was uncomfortable with Dave for reasons unknown and had, a year or two back, asked him not to interact with her.”
“Reasons unknown.” “A year or two back.” An internet post. CHILDREN PLEASE.
And yes people accusing harassment should have their histories questioned, and then their mental health if history indicates a reason to do so. Equally as much as “feelings” should be taken seriously by themselves.
October 11, 2016 @ 10:23 pm
Actually, from all the various agreed upon facts on this one, it’s pretty clear what happened. DW pursued a romantic relationship with a woman and was rejected. He then kept bugging her, so she told him to leave her alone. He then, apparently according to File 770’s folk, may have done an earlier blog post complaining about her, which would have also exposed her to online harassment. When they were both working on the con, WorldCon got him to agree privately not to bother her. He then went on the chat board and either deliberately or accidentally posted in a thread she started. He was told that wasn’t okay; he seems to have posted more times, WorldCon told him he needed to not do the online stuff to hold up the agreement. Private furious exchanges ensued and DW insisted melodramatically that WorldCon “fire” his volunteering. Then he took the private matter public and exposed this woman to online harassment.
I don’t think WorldCon handled this particularly well, but that doesn’t change the fact that any guy involved in geek events who has been on the Internet for more than a day knows that if you publicly expose a woman as having wronged a man on the Internet (by not wanting to talk to him,) a horde will descend on her with death, rape and doxxing threats. And apparently he may have done it to this woman twice and took private disputes public for WorldCon to deal with. So as far as I can see, DW is a jerk. I’m sure he has lots of friends in the con communities who don’t consider him a jerk. But the oh he was just a clueless guy who didn’t realize what would happen is getting to be a very tired refrain. Everybody knows what will happen if you do what he did. His taking the stuff down or private means nothing — it’s already been screen-captured and the woman already attacked.
As harassment policies get more in place and cons and events get better at enforcing them and doing staff training to handle them better, these situations are going to be pretty typical — public screeds that mainly target women for online attacks. And the sum total of these is to try and get women geeks to keep quiet about problems to con staff or even going to and working on cons altogether. It’s not going to work, but it is going to cause a lot of personal damage along the way.
October 12, 2016 @ 1:38 am
There is no evidence any of that happened. There is no evidence that he pursued a romantic relationship with her; she offered to let him crash at her place, and he took her up on that once–it doesn’t make them lovers. There is no evidence that he ‘bugged’ her; he mentioned her a few times on social media because he thought they were friends, and when she asked him not to, he stopped. There is no evidence that he posted more than once in the thread or that he posted at all after someone told him it was a problem. There is no evidence he got belligerent in his emails; he *posted* the emails in response to that claim and his tone was perfectly reasonable. And he is not in any way obligated to be silent when he is being treated unjustly.
It is, though, obvious what happened here. WorldCon decided to force Weingart out because someone told them he’d done something bad and–rather than investigate, which would include checking with him to see if he an alibi or other evidence to counter her claim–they took it on faith. So they placed restrictions on him that made it impossible to do his job in an effort to force him to quit; when that didn’t work, they fired him. And when he protested that this was unjust, WorldCon got its defenders to blame him for subsequent harassment as if it was his fault and not theirs that the situation came about. Now Weingart’s backing down, largely because he doesn’t want Vox Day to screw around with things, but this is still a huge stain on the convention–and will be, unless the convention either reinstates Weingart or explains what their procedure for validating claims of harassment is and shows that it’s more than “one person, who may have some grudge, telling us someone did something bad”.
And the thing is, this is going to have bad consequences. Alexandra Erin summed up the anti-Weingart side a few days ago when she wrote that this is good because it means we’re moving from a “justice oriented” model to a “safety oriented” model. As if you could have safety without justice. What this shows is that nobody is safe from being arbitrarily thrown out of WorldCon based on charges that can’t be answered from someone whose accuracy is not open to question. Nobody is safe from giving months of their time, effort, and resources to a con which can then turn around, wreck their reputation, and force them out for no clear reason–or from going to the con, spending possibly thousands of dollars on airfare, hotel, and registrations, and then be kicked out because some rando with a grudge convinced WorldCon that was necessary for ‘safety.’ Nobody is safe from being treated unjustly by whoever’s running the con… and who’s going to volunteer or attend a con where there’s a big risk they’ll be treated unjustly? Where they could be turfed at any time, even if they did nothing wrong? Only the people who think they’ll never be caught up in this; that is, the people who are so popular they know nobody would believe any statements against them (like Erin herself), and the people who naively believe that accusation-based systems would never misfire and hit them. But as we see this happen more and more–and I think that’s a safe bet, at this point–that second group will dwindle.
Hopefully WorldCon learns from this and changes their policy to focus on treating everyone justly, but I’m very skeptical that this will happen.
October 12, 2016 @ 3:25 am
I disagree about the known facts, but you’re missing the point, as is typical on these things. This woman did not go on an online crusade against Weingart. She just told him to leave her alone, which she has every right as a person to do, and she let WorldCon know that she didn’t want contact with him while they both worked the con, so there wouldn’t be any problems. And Weingart agreed not to contact her. This all happened privately. And WorldCon told him he needed to continue that agreement, privately. And Weingart refused. He went back on his word. So they said that it wasn’t going to work his doing the volunteering and he could resign, again all private. And he insisted that they fire him and throw him out. So they did. They decided he was more trouble as a volunteer than he was worth because he was throwing temper tantrums. And again, though a firing is a bit more public, the whole thing was handled privately to the extent that Weingart allowed it to be.
Weingart’s rationale for all that seems to be that it was impossible for him to run his division without being able to use the chat boards. Do I buy this? No. The guy was pissed at this woman. So he screwed her over by publicly calling her out with his online rants about her request to WorldCon and WorldCon’s agreement with him, giving enough info that she could be i.d. Which any person dealing with the Internet at all would know meant a horde would attack her.
Irrespective of his dispute with the WorldCon people, irrespective of whether you think this woman has a right to be able to not have contact with someone she finds distressing while she volunteers (she does,) that one act means, for me, that Weingart is a jerk. He threatened her life by doing his online rant. If it hadn’t been Beale and his horde, it would have been someone else.
Being a woman geek is frequently dangerous, and the main reason it’s dangerous is because there are an awful lot of people — ones who aren’t even geek fans some times — who feel that women are not supposed to talk about fandom, complain about anyone, participate in events in ways they feel safe, or refuse to interact with a man, whether it’s done privately or not. And that’s what Erin is talking about, because she herself has been the target of similar abuse and attack — for being “popular” as you put it. It’s not two people on an even playing field going at it in a court of law over a criminal case.
This woman did not kick Weingart out of WorldCon, nor request it. She was trying to do her volunteer job too. And now she’s facing identity theft, physical threat, and very possibly not being able to participate in fandom at all, or online activity at all because Weingart attacked and targeted her online. And everybody knows what happens when you do that — including Weingart. But he did it anyway.
So he’s a jerk, in my opinion. And it doesn’t do his credibility much good — from his own actions, not accusations. From what he did, publicly, and openly admits doing. He rang the dinner bell, and he knew what would come calling when he did.
October 12, 2016 @ 8:46 am
That protest screams CRYBULLY.
No evidence, just damsel-in-distress sympathy appeals and inflamed grievance-speak about people threatening lives (BY PROXY – on the internet – the horror!)
Remember when using your real name stood for integrity? Now it’s “giving enough info that she could be i.d. Which any person dealing with the Internet at all would know meant a horde would attack her” …
Thoughtcrime and Pre-Crime, meet Internet-Proxy-Crime.
A minute on google finds this windy statement that boils down to a vague whinge about “women’s (and others’) safety concerns” and “compromising the safety and peace of mind of the person”. Still without evidence of ANYTHING but feelings.
I’m far more afraid of childish crybullies like this, than of some guy who’s named and shamed for being a “jerk” and supposedly pushing everything over the slippery slope to murder by magical internet mob.
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2016 @ 8:59 am
“Remember when using your real name stood for integrity?”
Says the anonymous commenter.
If you can comment and discuss without the name-calling and general dickishness, great. Until then, you’re being moved into the moderation queue.
October 12, 2016 @ 10:25 am
“Without even knowing or reading into this – ”
You know nothing about this incident and choose not to learn more. Your feelings about the matter are irrelevant.
October 12, 2016 @ 11:20 am
What evidence was I supposed to provide? And evidence of what, exactly? I’d think I would need to make an accusation of some kind before I would be called upon to back it up.
October 12, 2016 @ 10:01 pm
It’s pretty easy to tell what’s going on from the above article. Vague accusation of being a jerk; smokescreen and attack skeptics; refuse evidence, cite unaccountable external powers. Shitty Kafka for nerds.
October 12, 2016 @ 10:03 pm
Baseless anger against a guy, refusal of evidence. Got it.
Jim C. Hines
October 12, 2016 @ 10:20 pm
Kevin S. – What are you even talking about? Where is this “baseless anger” you’re complaining about? Evidence of *what* exactly?
October 12, 2016 @ 10:57 pm
My particular anger has a very clear base and the evidence is not in dispute — the guy himself did it in public for all to see. This guy took a dispute he was having with WorldCon public on the Net and targeted this woman for outing and online harassment and more. He did a deliberate act which anyone with a brain knows would cause this woman to be threatened. And then he offered a lame apology for it, as if he’s surprised that it happened. Nobody is surprised that this happens. It happens all the time.
John C. Bunnell
October 13, 2016 @ 3:37 am
This is one formulation of the behavior under discussion, but I don’t think it’s either the only possible formulation or necessarily the only reasonable one. Here’s my concern:
People who see themselves as wide-eyed idealists often have a particular blind spot: they expect the people around them to behave as honorably and idealistically as they do. As the linked article points out, a person with this character trait can find themselves in serious trouble as a result of this expectation…and it’s always seemed to me that the science fiction community has more than its share of just this sort of wide-eyed idealist. Moreover, it seems to me that it’s just this sort of person who could very easily find him- or herself on the wrong end of a personal interaction that the other party might read as harassment, but that the idealist would read as simply an unfortunate — even catastrophic — miscommunication. (The discussion of ST:TNG‘s Data in the linked article is, I think, perceptively stated and possibly useful in context.)
None of this is to say that the posts under discussion didn’t generate negative consequences; it’s clear that they did. But I think it’s entirely possible that those consequences were wholly unintended, and that failure to foresee those consequences does not necessarily reflect malice.
Jim C. Hines
October 13, 2016 @ 11:18 am
Ultimately, we can’t know someone’s intentions. Consequences that might appear obvious to someone who’s spent a lot of time in the internet trenches might not be apparent to others. Weingart did try to remove any identifying data from the screenshots, and protested when he learned the other individual was being harassed.
Was he genuinely trying to protect the other person, or was he hoping to trigger that harassment? We can’t know for certain. Personally, I’m a lot more comfortable focusing on the actions. Whether intended or not, we can look at what actually happened and focus on that. I guess I don’t see a *need* to try to guess at intentions and malice and such.
John C. Bunnell
October 13, 2016 @ 1:10 pm
I agree with you that we in the peanut gallery can’t know intent based on the limited information available — which is exactly what bothers me about Kat’s comment, because she’s asserting that she does. One of my own intentions here is simply to illustrate that there’s more than one way to read events, depending on the assumptions one brings to the table.
At the same time, while it’s not crucial for us as spectators to be sure what the intent was, it seems to me that knowing intent does matter for the principals in the case. From a legal perspective, intent is often a key component of determining guilt or innocence in a given situation, and from a policy perspective, administrative policies that don’t take intent into account have a demonstrated tendency to get the issuers of those policies in hot water (particularly school districts who’ve been seen to suspend/expel students too quickly based on such policies).
October 13, 2016 @ 1:35 pm
Baloney. The ignorant dork Casablanca defense is a nice cover but unless you’ve been living under a rock — and DW hasn’t — you know what’s going to happen when you ring that bell. He just didn’t think the threat to this woman was as important as airing his grievances.
Again and again we have this situation with people targeting women for Internet hate mobs — quite often because those women don’t want to interact with them anymore — and then saying they are shocked, terribly shocked that there are Internet hate mobs going after the woman they online declared a problem for them. And it’s happened repeatedly in SFF and conventions — one of the main reasons conventions have been pushed to have workable and enforced codes of conduct.
So “why, I had no idea that would happen” is not a viable excuse any more. The telling the Internet hate mob to go after a woman and then saying, “hey, don’t go after her, Internet hate mob” when everybody knows that’s useless is the new game. Gamergate started on this. The Sad Puppies did it. Lou Antonelli sicked them on his woman magazine editor, etc.
Starry-eyed idealism has been used to excuse women being harassed, groped, pinned down, and called fake fans or fake SFFH authors at conventions for decades. It’s been used to fight off having the codes of conduct at conventions, with the claim that it can’t possibly happen or women should suck it up — because there’s no “malice” intended. Meanwhile women keep getting forced out of geek spaces while everything the “idealists” do is excused as just being clueless guys for which there should be no criticism, much less ever any consequences.
You are not clueless guys. You know what happens when you do these things. You know what women fans have to deal with. DW knew, and he did it anyway. You want to keep justifying his temper tantrums, go ahead, but if anything happens to this woman, it’s on his head.
Jim C. Hines
October 13, 2016 @ 1:45 pm
KatG – There’s a lot I agree with you about. But on your claim to *know* what DW knew and intended, I disagree.
I’m not excusing what he did. I’m not justifying his actions. I’m not saying it’s all okay if it wasn’t planned and intentional. I’m acknowledging that no, we can’t read minds, and it’s not always possible to distinguish between ignorance and malice.
That doesn’t change the outcome of his actions in the slightest. It doesn’t mean we ignore the consequences of his actions. But I don’t see the point in arguing about what was going on in his heart and mind, since that’s invisible and unprovable. I’d prefer to focus on actions and behaviors.
October 13, 2016 @ 5:23 pm
Well, the action is not disputed. Everyone, including the guy himself, agrees he did the action. And the consequences of that action are not disputed. Everybody knows, including the guy himself, what the consequences were.
These gents wanted to argue that in his heart and mind DW was clueless and ignorant of those consequences right up until they happened. So I disputed it, because I find that a ludicrous idea, as an opinion, and that it has been used as a convenient excuse for the action, over and over again in these cases. But I am happy to not bother and clutter up the comment stream further with it.
I am also happy that they are working on safety at the conventions, rather than the insistence that conventions act as judiciaries by people who don’t understand how private events and codes of conduct work. It is a cultural convulsion over what’s being attempted for equal access. And unfortunately, part of that seems to be sending Internet hordes after women, as well as the existence of those hordes in the first place.
October 13, 2016 @ 8:47 pm
After reading all the speculative posts I got to the point were I don’t know anymore about a very important point, was there or not any proof of any wrong doing on the part of DW or was he forced to make the initial agreement just cause she said she was feeling harassed ?
John C. Bunnell
October 13, 2016 @ 11:51 pm
According to DW’s posts (which I read as they were first released):
Something happened between DW and X — privately, not during a convention — that caused X to ask him to stay permanently out of contact thereafter. So far as I’m aware, no one besides DW and X knows the details of that incident, and — with one exception, a written letter — DW says he did as he was asked and stayed out of contact, and no legal or other action was pursued by or on behalf of either party.
DW was aware X was on the Worldcon 75 staff when he was asked to join. As a result, he requested that WC75 draft rules and procedures allowing him to do his assigned job while keeping to his prior agreement with X. He and WC75 reached a separate agreement to that effect; it isn’t clear whether or to what degree X was consulted during that process.
John C. Bunnell
October 13, 2016 @ 11:54 pm
[glyph of “oops”]
I meant the above as a reply to Filipe, but it took long enough to type that I paused to refresh the page before uploading (so as to avoid crossposting with someone else’s reply), and then forgot to click the REPLY link before pasting my text back into the form.
October 14, 2016 @ 2:44 pm
That is exactly the same info I got (found the archives for the deleted posts) and the only thing I see here is X not wanting contact with DW and him being forced out of his normal life cause of that, how can anyone defend the position in which DW is being put, I really don’t understand.
If there is no proof of any actual wrong doing from the part of DW and if he actually stopped contacting her during the 1.5 year period between her request and he starting working on worldcon 75, how can this considered stalking ?! Have the rules of innocent until proven guilty been changed ? The really stupid part is that from what I am reading he seems like a great guy that accepted the initial rules from worldcon cause he actually didn’t want X to feel the way she did even though he is not even informed of the reason why she felt that way. I am sorry but without going into speculation I don’t see how we can accept the position from worldcon.
Loose-leaf Links #29 | Earl Grey Editing
October 27, 2016 @ 5:04 pm
[…] Earlier this month, David Weingart was fired from the Worldcon staff for failing to abide by an agreement to stay away from another staff member. Jim C. Hines has a summary and analysis of the situation. […]